Kellen Keiser and the $20,000 lamb 2009.09.16

Written by David Green.


That must be some lamb to command a sale price of this magnitude.

Not really. Instead, it’s one special kid who owned that lamb—Kellen Keiser, a freshman at Fayette High School.kellen.keiser.bed.jpg

Swanton Machine and Welding paid $5,500 at the Fulton County Fair junior livestock sale last week—not bad when a typical lamb might fetch $350—but that was just the beginning.

Once the bidding ended and a winner was declared, the other bidders also wanted in on the action.

“After the first person bought it, others held up their cards and said, ‘We’re going to donate our bid, also,” explained sales manager Curt Johnson. “It just snowballed.”

And the reason for this flow of cash? It’s to assist the Keiser family financially as Kellen battles leukemia.

“Kellen’s grandpa, Mick Schaffner, asked if he could get a group together to buy the lamb,” said Kellen’s mother, Tina.

Ken Wagner organized a collection of area residents who pledged $1,250—a sum they thought would be sufficient for a winning bid.

Before the bidding got underway, however, the auctioneer gave a short statement about Kellen’s health and that was enough for Connie Zeiter, wife of Swanton Machine and Welding owner Norm Zeiter.

As Tina heard the story, Connie said, “We need to buy that.”

The bidding ended at $5,500 and then the donations started to flow in. The tally reached about $19,700, Curt said, then someone chipped in to make it an even $20,000.

The final sum from the auction ended around $20,500, but that still wasn’t the end. Tina said a check for $2,000 arrived in the mail Saturday from someone who missed out on the auction.

“It’s quite astounding,” she said, and Curt agrees.

“With something like this, people just open their hearts and wallets,” he said. “People who don’t even know Kellen got involved. That’s the great thing about living in a small, rural community. I couldn’t be prouder to be part of this area when something like this happens.”

Kellen’s father Kirk was amazed by all the donations, also, and one in particular.

“After Kellen’s lamb had sold I was sitting in the show arena watching the sale and trying to digest everything that had taken place,” Kirk said. “A friend of Kellen’s from 4-H camp came up and told me he had donated his lamb check to Kellen.

“It was just amazing that this boy wanted to help so much that he gave up his entire check. It makes me feel proud and secure that there are such good kids and loving people in our small community and neighboring ones as well. With the tough time our country is in, it’s amazing and overwhelming just how much everyone wants to help.”

Battling leukemia

Kellen wasn’t feeling well last spring and testing determined that he was suffering from ALL (acute lymphoblastic leukemia—a cancer of the white blood cells that normally fight infections.

Although childhood cancer isn’t common, ALL is the most prevalent form of the disease in children. The National Cancer Institute describes the treatment of the disease as “one of the great success stories” in fighting cancer. The recovery rate is now very high.

Kellen receives treatment on an out-patient basis, but he isn’t able to attend school and probably won’t be back in the classroom until February, Tina said, after an intense schedule of chemotherapy concludes.

He intends to keep up with his studies through a variety of means. Some friends and relatives bought a laptop computer for him to use at home and teachers are taping some class sessions.

There’s also an effort underway to connect Kellen to school via a webcam, and some students are offering to serve as tutors.

His tutors will have to be in good health due to his compromised immune system. That condition really limits his contact with friends. He was back in the hospital last week due to a bacterial infection.

As the livestock auction proceeded at the fairgrounds, Kellen was at St. Vincent hospital in Toledo, leaving his 11-year-old sister, Emilie, to show the lamb.

“His poor sister did all the work,” Tina said, since Kellen’s illness was diagnosed about the time he started his fair project.

Kellen missed the big sale, but he’s delighted with the results.

“The thing that made him the happiest was learning he made more than the Grand Champion,” Tina said.

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